Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Searching for flights is a confusing business. There are numerous websites and airlines, and even when I think I’ve found the best option, I never know what I actually missed.
We all know websites like Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz, and sometimes these big websites are more than enough. But from all those other smaller websites out there, how do we know which are good and which are less convenient? Which ones offer cheap airline flights and which ones are a waste of time? Personally, I also dislike websites that compare prices over numerous windows. I want to see everything in one simple window within the website I’m using.
Here are 3 travel websites which are less known, but offer low fares, single windows and and some extra spark in the form of an interesting UI or useful information about the flights. I find that many times, when I search for flights, I’d rather use them over the big shots.
FareGeek had me at “geek”. Really. How can I not use a website with a name like that?
Having said that, FareGeek does offer something beyond the cool name. It offers some of the lowest fares I’ve seen (sometimes, anyway). The search interface is rather ordinary. You get to choose destinations, dates etc., and you can also specify that your dates or airports are flexible. I love the flexible dates option, because sometimes flight prices change dramatically within a day.
The search results layout is also nothing special, but the fares this website finds are, as I mentioned, pretty good. Here you can see that the best price it gave me for a flight from Toronto to London is $1,112 CAD (approx. $1,153 USD). Quite expensive, but it’s that time of year. On the left side you have a big “modify your search” button, which you can use to easily change just one part of your query or all of it. One glitch in FareGeek – it gives the price in the currency of the starting point, and I found no way to change that.
The flexible dates matrix is simple and easy to understand and browse, and you can use it to discover how fares sometimes change dramatically when you change your travel dates by one day.
Hipmunk is a totally new take on flight search. True, it is quite well known, but it’s not as big as others, and you got to love the user interface – and the chipmunk. Other than that, Hipmunk doesn’t provide a lot of options when it comes to the search interface. Other than the usual things, you can also have it search flexible dates by telling it to search for flights in the days before or after the dates you specified.
But the search results, now there’s something different. This is not your simple list of trips, but a whole chart of flight bars. Each colored bar represents a flight, and you see each leg of the flight in a separate chart. You can easily see the length of the flight and the length of the stopovers, and choose the leg you like best. You can sort the flights easily, the default sorting being by “agony”, which is a combination of the price, duration and the number of stops.
When you’re done selecting your first leg, go on to select the next one. You can start a new search in a new tab, and your previous search will be saved in its tab so you can go back to it at any time. I love this interface. The prices you get here are not always the cheapest (I got $1,170 from Toronto to London), but it’s still worth a search, even if you just want to clearly see what’s available.
Lately, Hipmunk added the option to see which flights have Wi-Fi. Another welcome addition to this fun website.
InsideTrip might be the least known of these websites, but it’s worth getting to know. InsideTrip’s gimmick is a score each flight gets, which is comprised of different aspects of interest.
You start by searching for your flight as usual, and you immediately get an average score for the whole market of your selected route. It’s interesting, but still not very useful, as you usually don’t choose your route by how fun it is, but more by necessity. But it could be helpful if you’re actually still debating where you should go. You can compare the results with several other websites if that’s your thing, but you can choose not to compare at all. The flexible date option is sorely missing.
The flight matrix you get in the search results is interesting. Each flight gets a score.
You can use the dashboard to select what this score will be calculated by. If the most important thing for you is legroom and lost bags rank, you can rate the fights according to those things only. You can also screen your results so you see only flights with a certain score or above. This is great to play with.
The prices I found were not bad either ($1,164 for Toronto to London), but again, you can use this website just to know more about these airlines, even if you don’t use it for your final booking.
Information is almost as important as the final price, and these websites provide some useful information, on top of some decent prices. They might not always provide better prices than the big ones (but check out FareGeek, which many times does), but by the time you finish playing with them, you might know a bit more about flights and airlines. Not to mention that they make flight searching fun!
Let us know in the comments if you know of some good flight websites that are less known.